I can make this dish in 12 minutes, and you could too. This isn’t some kind of Jamie Oliver style full-on over-the-top mad rush dish. All I’m saying is that you can, if you want to, and can devote your full attention, make it that quickly. But probably doing it that fast is more tiring than doing it in an acceptable 15 to 20 minutes.
A lot of Italian cooking can be super fast like this. It relies on simple fresh ingredients so doesn’t really need a lot of finesse or involvement to get right. When Katherine has taken Nina up to bed, and it looks likely that Nina might drop off quickly, this is an ideal standby as we almost always have all of the ingredients in the cupboard. You might not have a regular supply of little tomatoes in the house, but Nina devours them so we always do.
A glug extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic
Half a punnet of little tomatoes
Some cubed pancetta (70g or whatever one of those small packs are)
Quite a bit of Parmesan
Katherine and I have been favouring having only 60 grams of linguine per person for a while. But I think some people have more. But if you don’t cook it then you can’t accidentally eat it – this meal is moreish and you will probably find yourself eating all of it. I believe that pasta was invented to help people fill up on cheap starch, but now it is possible to fill up on the non-starchy stuff, which is probably better for you (if you can afford it).
You don’t actually have to make this dish in 12 minutes if you don’t want to rush. The thing that takes the longest is the pasta, so remember to put the water on to boil first. If you really are trying to beat the clock, the fastest way to get a pan up to boil is to put a small amount of water in the pan with the lid on, and boil a kettle to get the rest. This means the pan is up to temperature when the boiling water goes in.
While the pan is getting up to temperature, wash and halve the tomatoes and put them in a bowl (just use one of the bowls you are going to serve up in, it doesn’t matter). At some point while you are chopping this you should have achieved the grandiose feat of having boiling water in a pan. Once this happens, put in some salt into the water (if you like that kind of thing) and then put the pasta in too. Now count down the rest of this recipe by setting the timer to whatever the pasta says it wants to cook for. I tend to find that if the pasta mentions a range and you have added salt you can use the smaller number. If you haven’t, then use the bigger number on the pack.
Carry on chopping the tomatoes and then peel the garlic, finely slice it and stick it in the bowl with the tomatoes. Now put some olive oil on the tomatoes and garlic and mix them up a bit. Now add some chilli flakes (a pinch) and some pepper.
Get a frying pan (or ideally a flat bottomed wok) out and put a little bit of oil in the pan and the cubed pancetta in there (don’t turn it on yet).
At 6 minutes to go on the timer, turn on the pancetta and remember to stir your pasta.
At 3 minutes to go on the timer, stir the pancetta and add the tomatoes and garlic mix.
Grate the parmesan into the other person’s empty bowl (you don’t want the oil on it yet) and grate a good amount of pepper into the parmesan. I know this recipe has two points where you are putting pepper in, this is on purpose. I think the first round of pepper is for the cooking, the second is for the serving. If people want to add pepper at the table, miss this round of pepper out.
When the timer is done, drain the pasta, but don’t shake it up in the colander, leave some of the water on it and stick it straight into the pan with the tomatoes. Stir it all together and then throw the parmesan on top, stir again and serve up into the bowls.